Identity Theft: Safeguarding Yourself Against Land Fraud
Over the years, we’ve seen on social media, television, and print media, many high-level cases of fraudulent acquisition and sale of properties. That is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more cases that go unreported. It is important to note that in spite of the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning conducting reorganization and clean-up exercises in the land registries, these fraudulent land transactions are still happening.
Fraud cases have tremendously increased to the point that people are afraid of purchasing land in certain areas of the country.
Most of these fraudulent transactions are made through stolen or forged titles and identity theft.
“Identity theft is where a conman pretends to be the registered owner of the land.”
If you’re a property owner, you should actively guard against fraud. Some of the ways of protecting your shamba are:
Have Someone Stay on the Land – As a smart prospective land buyer, making a visit to the property before committing to a transaction is paramount. So if someone is staying on the land, it makes it difficult for a conman to sell such property as they would be hesitant to take the prospective buyer to the site.
Check the Rates and Rent Accounts – Land rates and rent accounts will bear your name as the registered owner of the land. If the land is transferred, the account details are updated to reflect the transfer. As a land owner, you should frequently have a look at these accounts to confirm that they bear your details and that no other person has made or is making payments into these accounts.
Conduct Regular Searches – Searches confirm TWO main things, 1. The details of the registered owner of the land, and 2. They also help to establish whether the land records are available at the lands registry. You should be very concerned when the land records are missing as this suggests that there could be an ongoing transaction or activity relating to the records.
Keep Your Title Documents Safely – The title documents should be kept securely e.g. in safe deposits to avoid theft, not under your bed. When you realize your Title Documents are missing, It is important to make plans to replace a lost title deed. Rogue individuals/conmen may fake your ID and KRA pin using the name written on your title to effect an illegal transfer of the land. They can even use your title deed as collateral to obtain a loan. Therefore, once you misplace this important document, treat it with utmost urgency to prevent such illegal transactions.
Check the Gazette Notice regularly – It has been noted that some fraudsters-in cahoots with people inside the Lands offices, will apply to the registrars for new titles under the cover that original titles are lost. The registrar must publish a notice on the gazette notifying the public of the issuance of a new title with respect to the land.